Strike-hit S.Africa car component makers race to meet orders

8th October 2013, Comments 0 comments

South African auto component makers said Tuesday it may take weeks to make up for production lost during a crippling strike as more labour action loomed.

"It's still difficult to tell at the moment, but we think it may take between five-eight weeks to catch up with the lost production," said Robert Houdet, director of the National Association of Automobile Component and Allied Manufacturers.

He said companies will have to use airfreight to meet export delivery times.

"This is much more expensive than sea, but we have no choice now," said Houdet.

On Monday, 78,000 workers returned to work after accepting a 10 percent wage increase for 2012.

The strike had shut down production plants across the country, hurting the crucial export market.

The strike came just after auto plant workers across the country had picked up their tools after a similar strike.

"Many component manufacturers will work double shifts to feed the assembly lines," said Houdet.

Manufacturers claim that production has been slowed by 3,000 vehicles a day because of component shortages, at a daily cost of $60 million.

The South African unit of German automaker BMW said last week that strikes at its plant had wrecked an opportunity to expand production by bidding to manufacture a new model there.

The company, which has an assembly plant north of the capital Pretoria, said the strike slashed production from 350 vehicles a day to 85 units.

According to Nico Vermeilen, director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, manufacturers had introduced overtime shifts to speed up production.

But as companies try to catch up, workers in the tyre making sector have also threatened to stop work over pay.

Union leaders believe that their strike will also deeply impact the auto sector.

But Vermeulen said the availability of tyre imports and ability to stock inventory would blunt the effects of any work stoppage.

© 2013 AFP

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